Doctor Who: Can You Hear Me?
February 10, 2020 2:20 AM - Season 12, Episode 7 - Subscribe

From ancient Syria to present day Sheffield, and out into the wilds of space, something is stalking the Doctor and infecting people’s nightmares.
posted by KTamas (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Eh. It was better than most if the season's efforts. Particular highlight was GETTING AWAY FROM EARTH FOR 15 WHOLE MINUTES.

Please. Please. Please. More of this. Less tedious earth bollocks.
posted by coriolisdave at 2:27 AM on February 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

Well I hope all the kids come out from behind the sofas eventually after they watch this one.
posted by Coaticass at 3:20 AM on February 10, 2020

(...and the adults.)
posted by Coaticass at 3:22 AM on February 10, 2020

Yeah, that was better than most of the season, although it still felt a little unfocused. (Why 14th-century Aleppo in particular? Are late medieval Syrian nightmares especially spicy or something?)

And while I liked the more personal moments with the companions, they didn't really leave a whole lot of room for the main plot to breathe. "HA HA HA WE ARE MENACING EARTH AND ALL ITS BILLIONS OF HUMANS! TREMBLE, YE--ohfuckmewe'retrappedinaball."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:44 AM on February 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

The backstory bits with the companions were a very nice touch, and helped make them fuller characters.

Why Aleppo? Um...why not? Maybe to illustrate how far back in human history these "immortals" have been around, sucking on human nightmares? It's best not to wonder why Who picks locales. Most of the time, it doesn't really have much bearing on the story.

Kudos for the detachable fingers used as ear-docked USB drives. Creepy AF.

I liked this one. A bit of misdirection at first, making you think it was going to be a monster-of-the-week episode, but then whispy finger-man shows up and you're all "whaaaa...?"

I especially loved the two bits where the Doctor is deep in monologing/exposition only to turn around and realize she's talking to an empty room. A funny bit of self-awareness on the part of the writers, I think.

Fun episode.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:52 AM on February 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

All the stories written by Chibnall seem to have monsters whose main characteristic is having remarkable amounts of teeth. Wonder why that is?
posted by Faintdreams at 8:36 AM on February 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

Episode title had me thinking of Mike & The Mechanics' song Silent Running (lyrics).
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:49 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Again, I wish this was a multi-parter. I know that era is gone, but these baddies really needed more than the like 12 minutes of screen time they got.

I know Bell Let's Talk is a Canadian thing, but this almost risked being a Very Special Episode. It just ducked it, somehow.
posted by Kyol at 9:42 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ok, I was a bit off, from the bad guy's first scenery chewing on the space station to their reconfinement was 18 minutes.
posted by Kyol at 9:54 AM on February 10, 2020

It wasn't bad, but they shoehorned in another PSA.

Any bets on the next one? Alcoholism? Seatbelts?
posted by Marticus at 12:40 PM on February 10, 2020

Any bets on the next one? Alcoholism? Seatbelts?

Remind me, have we had a Brexit episode yet?
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:05 PM on February 10, 2020

Having aliens literally try to detach the UK from Earth would at least be entertaining.
posted by Marticus at 1:17 PM on February 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

Remind me, have we had a Brexit episode yet?

Didn't they lampshade that previous season ? Something about UNIT having been de-funded ?
posted by Pendragon at 1:22 PM on February 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

For those not in the UK there is a nationwide 'Let's talk about Mental Health' month thing happening in the UK that I suspect Doctor who was timed to coincide with.

It's part of the 'Let's Talk' or 'Take A Minute' campaigns I can't currently look up which.
posted by Faintdreams at 1:46 PM on February 10, 2020 [6 favorites]

I felt like the pacing was way off in this one -- I got super bored and actually dozed off for a few minutes somewhere in the middle, which shouldn't have happened in a story with so many great, creepy elements. And then the ending was really rushed.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:04 PM on February 10, 2020

Huh, this was like, not bad? Almost good? Stranger things etc.

Felt like ham-fisted foreshadowing that we'll be getting new companions next season? But this show has never done subtle.

It says a lot that it was good enough that I pretty much missed the PSA bit which is more obvious in retrospect and knowing the context.

Not very optimistic about the next episode based on the preview, seems like your run-of-the-mill behind the sofa, but judging by the titles of the final two episodes of the season (which I won't spoil obviously but feel free to look it up) those might be fun.
posted by KTamas at 4:07 PM on February 10, 2020

This episode made me think about production and the ongoing arc more than the episode itself - and I'm all here for PSAs about mental health.

Another brief stop on the Timeless Child story, which is apparently a nightmare of the Doctor. Or perhaps just the Master's warning of the lies the Time Lords told is her nightmare. In any case, shoehorned in, teasing a story I'm much more interested in.

Yes, it seems like the companions will be gone at the end of the season. Thinking back, only Rory/Amy lasted more than a season - 2.5 seasons. Every other companion has been only 1 or 2 seasons. I think I finally have to concede that Ryan and Yaz just don't work; only Graham feels like a fully fleshed out character. And even his dream of his dead wife didn't really make me feel anything.

I'm excited for the next episode, given its premise (no spoilers here), but I really just want to be at the two-part finale so we can find out more about the Timeless Child and the Ruth Doctor. (And the Lone Cyberman, probably.)
posted by crossoverman at 6:32 PM on February 10, 2020

Hush little baby don’t say a word
And never mind that noise you heard
It’s just the beast under your bed
In your closet in your head
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:43 PM on February 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

I thought it was going to be a two-parter. It was really good, other than the pacing and not giving the Syrian girl anything to do until the end, which was rushed. I liked the slower pace in the middle!

The baddies were suitably scary, and a baddie feeding on human fears seemed like a perfect way to tie in with a message about human frailty and fortitude. I thought they navigated it really well. I'd happily watch Doctor Who battle a different mental demon every week. Maybe it's not what the show should always be about, but it's not not what it's about. I much prefer this genre of Doctor Who over Horror pastiches or Conspiracy Thriller pastiches.

And everyone lived in the end, which was nice.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:29 PM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

The UK brexited before Brexit in "The Beast Below", which was apparently broadcast in 2010 but I refuse to believe it was that long ago. The plot is not about Brexit, but it is, somehow, about government, empire, and memory, so it's not not about Brexit...
posted by BungaDunga at 7:35 PM on February 10, 2020 [7 favorites]

I must have blinked and missed something, but how did the Doctor get the sonic screwdriver from her coat pocket when she was still handcuffed? The villains were surprised as well.
posted by polymodus at 9:03 PM on February 10, 2020

Pinned her coat against a pillar and wiggled the screwdriver up and then jumped/twisted just so and up into the air and into her hands it went.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:05 PM on February 10, 2020

Again, I wish this was a multi-parter.

Might have been worth sacrificing Orphan 55 for a second episode of this.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:16 AM on February 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Beast Below was 100% about Brexit (the space whale was just trying to help you, do you have to torture & kill everyone & everything you meet with?); of course the Doctor would tell us about something in the future we didn't understand yet.
posted by bleep at 4:58 PM on February 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

This really needed to be more than one episode. What's this allergy to multi episode arcs? Am I just getting old? I felt like the bits about the companions lives were waved in front of us too fast to get the details. What anniversary were Yaz and her sister celebrating?

Big points for the incredibly awkward moment after Graham's confession.
posted by mrcrow at 8:30 PM on February 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I agree this was a pretty classic creepy episode, but agree if you are going to introduce some inter-dimensional immortals then maybe you need at least two episodes to defeat them. I also find it somewhat infuriating when the Doctor can quickly defeat some immortals, or an evil space fleet, but then have a hard time with Random Space Guy With Mediocre Weapon. But it's always been inconsistent so I'm not calling that out specifically here.

Somewhat distracted because I kept thinking about another instance where a shadowy dimension-hopping villain had a system of harvesting nightmares, storing the energy externally and then using that energy to power a world.
posted by mikepop at 8:56 AM on February 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

mikepo, my thoughts, too!

Also, sticking fingers in ears backwards delightfully weird and creepy.

Mr. Bad Example: Why 14th-century Aleppo in particular?

Apparently the Tardis has a disturbance/ noise alarm, and Aleppo was the source of this alarm. Perhaps that was when and where Zellin first manifested a nightmare creature into reality on Earth, which possibly created a fear/ nightmare energy spike that triggered the Tardis? Yeah, I'm just guessing, too. Re-reading the rough transcript didn't help much.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:39 AM on February 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's certainly not the first time the doctor was socially awkward or even just not interested.
posted by ceejaytee at 11:01 AM on February 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, that was better than most of the season
Wow, just a no from me, bub.

We've had 6 stories so far (the two-part opener counts as 1). To me, only 2 were legit interesting -- Spyfall and the Judoon ep. Orphan 55, the Tesla one, Praxeus, and this one were just filler/noise with a side order of preachy.
It wasn't bad, but they shoehorned in another PSA.

Any bets on the next one? Alcoholism? Seatbelts?
SO MUCH THIS. Half the stories so far this season have been effectively after-school specials, and I'm tired of it. There are only 3 hours left, but between the Master's revelation and the other-Doctor reveal, it doesn't seem like we have time or space for monster-of-the-week foolishness.
posted by uberchet at 2:42 PM on February 14, 2020

That was the first episode this season I found both creepy and moving. I've enjoyed the other episodes, but this one felt a little bit better over all - a two-parter would have definitely been great but the small beats between different characters and their awareness of the alienness of things, it was really good.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:44 PM on February 14, 2020

I thought this one was pretty good. The bad guy actor was REALLY creepy and I appreciated the more grown-up tone with the companions. Having the companions fret about adventuring their lives away has become a welcome trope on this show, it's a very real concern that helps ground things. And the mental health stuff in this one didn't bother me because it mostly felt like real character stuff and unlike a lot of recent episodes it didn't have such a contrived Very Special Episode feel.

After a lot of buildup I did think the bad guys were dispatched too quickly, but they were so rotten I was glad to see them stuck in the ball.

I thought the Doctor's awkwardness about Graham's cancer worries would have fit well with several of the previous Doctors, but it did seem a little out of character for this incarnation. I definitely didn't think she was being uncaring and her fumbling was relatable, but she's MUCH better at the hand-holding stuff than (for example) the Capaldi Doctor and this seemed like a weird regression for her. (Also, if Graham did have a recurrence, why couldn't she just give him some cancer-curing pill from 3000 years in the future? Take him to the hospital with the cat ladies!)

I'm guessing the "Timeless Child" we glimpsed was the Doctor, playing off Missy's comment about knowing the Doctor when he was a little girl... Although the Doctor seemed to be a little boy when we saw him hiding in the barn, in whatever that one episode was called, so I dunno how that would work. Maybe he died as a child and regenerated?

I'm hoping Chibnall doesn't have huge, mythos-shattering revelations planned because frankly I don't trust him to pull it off. He's now co-written a few episodes I actually liked but I still think he's not very good as a showrunner and it makes me nervous to think that he might toss us some big wacky origin story for the Doctor that the show has to spend the next few decades ignoring, like the "half human" stuff from the TV movie. Besides, the Doctor's origins have been mysterious for 57 years(!), and that's part of the fun!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:15 AM on February 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

The pacing was weird (I watched it in two sittings because I lost interest), but I also thought this one was pretty solid. The acting, in particular was fantastic - the emotional beats in the final act all landed, and Zellin and Rakaya are among the best new villains that the show's introduced in some time. I hope we see them again.

It'll still never stop being weird when this show reuses actors though. The guy who played Zellin had a fairly major part in the third season of Torchwood.
posted by schmod at 5:58 AM on February 25, 2020

Why Aleppo?

The Doctor had a tossed off line right as she arrived there, something about how surprisingly advanced 13th century Syria/Aleppo hospitals were regarding mental health? No idea how advanced they really were, but that does sound like the sort of factoid that could generate a bit of a script idea so it got thrown in.

there is a nationwide 'Let's talk about Mental Health' month thing happening in the UK that I suspect Doctor who was timed to coincide with.

Yah, pretty clearly, as the (mumble mumble) source for me has a bit of a "Here are some mental health resources" BBC voiceover happening over the end credits.
posted by soundguy99 at 1:46 PM on April 9, 2020

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